National Geographic : 1936 Oct
PARIS IN SPRING BY MAYNARD OWEN WILLIAMS SPRING flows across Paris in waves of joy. Tender leaves bring shade to the boulevards. Horse-chestnut can delabra lighten the masses of new green. In the Jardin des Plantes, the Luxembourg Gardens, and the Bois, hoops, skipping ropes, and all sizes and colors of balls give outlet for a new surge of energy and delight. At Pre Catelan and Armenonville tables and chairs, reappearing after their annual hibernation, invite conviviality. Along the boulevards unscientific but heart-warming braziers, around which cafe patrons clus tered all winter, give way to green tubs of pink hydrangeas. Overcoats are laid aside. Windows open wide in unconditional sur render to spring. Along the Seine the workmen's clubs shine up their houseboats, and ragged labor ers, stripping for a sun bath, become as well dressed as any man. Poor devils along the quays lie for hours on the warm stone stairways, savoring the blessed novelty of being neither cold nor wet. In the industrial suburbs, mild weather lessens the misery. " 'MID PLEASURES AND PALACES" In the Tuileries Gardens, human beings suddenly outnumber the statues, and at the Palais Royal, where John Howard Payne wrote "Home, Sweet Home," little boys welcome staunch sailboats after ad venturous voyages amid the waterspouts of the fountain. The Gingerbread Fair, with its roaring lions, skin-deep beauty shows, merry-go rounds, wheels of fortune, and photograph shops, starts its annual round under many aliases (page 502). As the "Fair of the Throne" on the Place de la Nation, this street carnival has its biggest success, for there it is among its own, the common folk who get a thrill out of having gingerbread pigs "baptized" with the names of their proud youngsters. Under other titles, the Gingerbread Fair later spreads its tents before the Invalides and paves the Avenue de Neuilly with pleasure from the Porte Maillot to the Seine. Along the outer boulevards it com petes for custom with cinema and cabaret. How long it can last, none of the sellers of nougat or spinners of fortune wheels can say. "People don't seem to buy live tur tles any more," one veteran sighed. There are zoos from one end of Paris to the other. Giraffes brush at the clouds with inadequate ears; a fat sea elephant tips its head back like a man gargling, in order to eat fish from the hands of a keeper stand ing on its back; monkeys chase fleas, lions obey a trainer, and elephants, doing ele phantine tricks, collect tips in their trunks (page 520). As for donkeys, ponies, and goats, there are squads of them, each ready to go into action any time a pair of chubby legs strad dles its back or a dainty miss of four takes the reins. SOPHISTICATED CITY IN SIMPLE MOOD Paris offers its children countless simple delights. A youngster can ride a camel, drive a llama or an ostrich, lance rings from a merry-go-round, whirl to music inside a miniature plane, dig in the sand, sail a yacht, or forget the world at a puppet show (pages 506 and 507). Then there is the Zoo of the Little Ones. Any city might have one. A dozen lambs, two dozen pigs, six donkeys, twenty kids, rabbits, ducklings, guinea pigs, and mon keys to suit the taste-this is the recipe. Paris adds a baby camel and its mother. But that is mere swank. The magic lies in those mutually timor ous contacts through which confidence and companionship are established between a child and a pet. Tiny children feed woolly lambs from bottles and squeal with delight when the little beggars suck the nipple off and spill milk down mother's black dress. There is something enormously appealing about being allowed to feed another per son's livestock when you are young in Paris in the spring (pages 504 and 520). Every afternoon, governesses and their well-dressed charges invade the generous expanses of forest, park, and square. On Thursdays, when the schools are out, and Sundays, when everyone is, Paris goes sylvan to an unbelievable degree. Lying on the grass is a major sport. Within smart race tracks at Longchamp or Auteuil, nature lovers stretch out under the sun, some scarcely raising their heads as prize seeking hoofs pound by.